GNU's Bulletin, vol. 1 no. 5, June, 1988

Table of Contents

GNU's Who

A lot of new people have recently arrived at the GNU project. Nobuyuki and Mieko Hikichi are on loan to us from Software Research Associates in Tokyo, where Nobu works as a programmer and Mieko as a technical writer. At FSF, Nobu is extending GDB with a C interpreter that he is writing. Mieko is helping user-test GNU documentation and is translating some of it into Japanese. Diane Barlow Close, our first full time technical writer, is preparing a manual for Gawk (GNU's `awk' interpreter). Mike Haertel and Pete TerMaat have joined us for the summer from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Mike's first project for us is writing a new `egrep' program using sophisticated algorithms that he has developed. Pete is working on other utilities.

Meanwhile, Brian Fox has moved to UC Santa Barbara until at least the end of this year, but is still working for us. He recently completed the Bourne Again Shell (a `sh' imitation) and is extending it to be like the Korn Shell. Jay Fenlason is adding features for remote dumping to the GNU tar program, and maintains other utilities including the GNU assembler.

Opus Goldstein is our jack-of-all-trades office staff. If you call our office, she is the one who answers. She fills the orders, and handles the day-to-day operations of the Foundation. Robert Chassell is our Treasurer and deals with corporate issues not related to programming. In addition, he recently rewrote and expanded the Texinfo manual and has just started an Emacs Lisp Programmers Manual.

Richard Stallman continues to do countless tasks, including refining the C compiler, GDB, GNU Emacs, etc. and their documentation. Paul Rubin has made it his life's ambition to graduate UC Berkeley before turning 100, but is also writing a graphic editing extension for GNU Emacs. Finally, Len Tower continues to handle electronic administrivia (mailing lists, information requests, and system mothering).

GNU's Bulletin

Copyright (C) 1988 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Written by: Leonard H. Tower Jr., Paul Rubin, Robert Chassell, Richard Stallman and Opus Goldstein

Illustrations: Etienne Suvasa

Permission is granted to anyone to make or distribute verbatim copies of this document as received, in any medium, provided that the copyright notice and permission notice are preserved, and that the distributor grants the recipient permission for further redistribution as permitted by this notice.

What Is the Free Software Foundation?

The Free Software Foundation is dedicated to eliminating restrictions on copying, redistribution, understanding and modification of computer programs. We do this by promoting the development and use of free software in all areas of computer use. Specifically, we are putting together a complete integrated software system called "GNU" (GNU's Not Unix) that will be upward compatible with Unix. Some large parts of this system are already working and we are distributing them now.

The word "free" in our name refers to two specific freedoms: first, the freedom to copy a program and give it away to your friends and co-workers; second, the freedom to change a program as you wish, by having full access to source code. Furthermore, you can study the source and learn how such programs are written. You may then be able to port it, improve it, and share your changes with others.

There are other organizations which distribute whatever free software happens to be available. By contrast, the FSF concentrates on development of new free software, building toward a GNU system complete enough to eliminate the need to purchase a proprietary system.

Besides developing GNU, the Foundation has secondary functions: producing tapes and printed manuals of GNU software, carrying out distribution, and accepting gifts to support GNU development. We are tax exempt; you can deduct donations to us on your tax returns. Our development effort is funded partly from donations and partly from distribution fees. Note that the distribution fees are for exactly the service of distribution: you never have to pay anyone license fees to use GNU software, and you always have the freedom to make your copy from a friend's computer at no charge (provided your friend is willing).

The Foundation also maintains a Service Directory: a list of people who offer service for pay to individual users of GNU programs and systems. Service can mean answering questions for new users, customizing programs, porting to new systems, or anything else. Contact us if you want to be listed.

After we create our programs, we continually update and improve them. We release between 2 and 20 updates a year, for various programs. Doing this while developing new programs takes a lot of work, so any donations of pertinent source code and documentation, machines, labor or money are always appreciated.

What is Copyleft?

In the article "What Is The Free Software Foundation", we state that "you never have to pay anyone license fees to use GNU software, and you always have the freedom to make your copy from a friend's computer at no charge." What exactly do we mean by this, and how do we make sure that it stays true?

The simplest way to make a program free is to put it in the public domain. Then people who get it from sharers can share it with others. But bad citizens can also do what they like to do: sell binary-only versions under typical don't-share-with-your-neighbor licenses. They would thus enjoy the benefits of the freeness of the original program while withholding these benefits from the users. It could easily come about that most users get the program this way, and our goal of making the program free for all users would have been undermined.

To prevent this from happening, we don't normally place GNU programs in the public domain. Instead, we protect them by what we call copylefts. A copyleft is a legal instrument that makes everybody free to copy a program as long as the person getting the copy gets with it the freedom to distribute further copies, and the freedom to modify their copy (which means that they must get access to the source code). Typical software companies use copyrights to take away these freedoms; now we software sharers use copylefts to preserve these freedoms.

The copyleft used by the GNU project is made from a combination of a copyright notice and the GNU General Public License. The copyright notice is the usual kind. The General Public License is a copying license which basically says that you have the freedoms we want you to have and that you can't take these freedoms away from anyone else. (The actual document consists of several pages of rather complicated legalbol that our lawyer said we needed.) A copy of the complete license is included in all GNU source code distributions and many manuals, and we will send you a printed copy on request.

Open Software Foundation

We were saddened to read recently that a group of large computer companies has started a well-funded organization called the "Open Software Foundation". Due to the similarity of names, some of the public think that they must be working on a free imitation of Unix similar to GNU, and are curious whether we and they can work together. Some people said that they thought the Open Software Foundation was connected with us already.

Unfortunately, the Open Software Foundation plans to develop yet another proprietary operating system, which makes cooperation unlikely. They are not doing anything to hinder us, but we are sad that they did not choose to join us. However, the Open Software Foundation is just being organized and we hope that the founders will decide to adopt more sensible and far-sighted policies, at least for parts of the system.

GNU's Flashes (11 June 1988)

GNU Wish List

Wishes for this issue are for:

Special Report: Apple's New Look and Feel

You might have read about the new look-and-feel copyright lawsuit, Apple vs. Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. Apple claims the power to stop people from writing any program that works even vaguely like a Macintosh. If they and other look-and-feel plaintiffs triumph, they will use this new power over the public to put an end to free software that could substitute for commercial software.

In the weeks after the suit was filed, USENET reverberated with condemnation for Apple. GNU supporters Richard Stallman, John Gilmore, and Paul Rubin decided to take action against Apple's no-longer-deserved reputation as a force for progress. Apple's reputation comes from having made better computers; but now, Apple is working to make all non-Apple computers worse. If this deprives the public of the future work of many companies, the harm done would be many times the good that any one company does. Our hope was that if the user community realizes how destructive Apple's present actions are, Apple would lose customers and have more trouble finding employees.

Our method of action was to print 5000 buttons that say "Keep Your Lawyers Off My Computer" and hand them out at the West Coast Computer Faire. The center of the button shows the rainbow-apple logo with a Gigeresque mouth full of ferocious teeth. The picture was drawn by Etienne Suvasa, who also drew the cover for the GNU Emacs manual. We call the picture "Apple's New Look and Feel".

We gave out nearly 4000 buttons at the show (saving the rest for afterwards). The result was a great success: the extent of anger at Apple was apparent to everyone at the show. Many of the invited speakers at the show wore our buttons, spoke about them, or even waved them from the podium. The press noticed this: at least one Macintosh user's magazine carried a photo of the button afterwards.

Some of you may be considering using, buying, or recommending Macintoshes; you might even be writing programs for them or thinking about it. Please think twice and look for an alternative. Doing those things means more success for Apple, and this could encourage Apple to persist in its aggression. It also encourages other companies to try similar obstructionism.

You might think that your current project "needs" a Macintosh now. If you find yourself thinking this way, consider the far future. You probably plan to be alive a year or two from now, and working on some other project. You will want to get good computers for that, too. But an Apple monopoly could easily make the price of such computers at that time several times what it would otherwise be. Your decision to use some other kind of machine, or to defer your purchases now, might make sure that the machines your next project needs are affordable when you need them.

Newspapers report that Macintosh clones will be available soon. If you must buy a Macintosh-like machine, buy a clone. Don't feed the lawyers!

GNU in Japan

by Mieko Hikichi

[Editor's Note: this is condensed from a talk Mieko will give at the GNU BOF at the San Francisco USENIX conference].

My name is Mieko Hikichi. I have stayed in Boston since March with my husband, Nobuyuki Hikichi, who is working on the GNU C Interpreter. SRA has sent both of us to visit the Free Software Foundation for six months or maybe a year. Naturally, all our expenses are paid by our company including salary, apartment rent, and so on because our work is charitable.

At the Foundation, I am helping make the GNU project better known among Japanese users by translating documentation into Japanese and acting as a HOT LINE between GNU and Japan. Another thing I do is translate information about GNU software releases and broadcast it to Japan.

Use of GNU Software in Japan

To learn how GNU software is being used in Japan, I recently posted a questionnaire to news there. I believe that it produced important information about users' opinions, so I plan to send more questionnaires regularly and will post the results to news. It asked users where they had heard about GNU, which GNU programs they were using, what they thought of the manuals, what they had done to improve GNU software, and what they would like to see done next.

Many had heard about GNU from friends and colleagues; others, at the Japan Unix Society Symposium, on JUNET news, from "books in the field of computing society", and "from having used TOPS-20 Emacs." Every respondent used GNU Emacs, but unexpectedly only a few used GCC and GDB. A few also used Hack, Bison, and GNU Chess.

Regarding manuals, there seemed to be two kinds of users. One kind likes to study manuals carefully, learning in detail how to use the programs. The other likes to start using the program immediately making minimal use of the manual. The latter kind are unsatisfied with the current (English) manuals; they definitely need manuals in Japanese. Also, Texinfo gave some people trouble because they don't have TeX, or because Info is too slow to use on their heavily-loaded machines.

Two Japanese versions of GNU Emacs have been made: Nemacs, by Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL), and SX/A Emacs, by Pana Facom Usac (PFU). 71% of the respondents use one of these versions. They hope that official releases of GNU programs will support Japanese characters.

What would they like to see done next? They are mainly interested in the development of the basic software, and also the software environment, which must have a sense of balance and a well thought out user interface. There is a high level of interest in a GNU kernel.

Thus, I think of the following as my homework: to announce my availability as a pipe between GNU, U.S.A. and Japan, and to encourage volunteers from Japan to help with GNU.

GNU Project Status Report

Last updated 11 June 1988

This article gives the current status of most of major GNU programs. For other news about the project, see the "GNU's Flashes" section on p. 5.

GNU Emacs

GNU Emacs 18 is now being distributed. It is in wide use on several kinds of BSD 4.2 systems and on system V, VMS and Apollo Domain. Version 18.51, the current version, adds support for the 80386, the Sun 4, the Convex, the IRIS 4d and the HP 9000 series 800; also support for system V.3. A few bugs that remain will be fixed in 18.52, available soon. RMS has started merging new features into version 19, which may be released late this year.

Berkeley is distributing GNU Emacs with the 4.3 distribution, and several computer manufacturers are distributing it with Unix systems.


Brian Fox has now completed the Bourne Again shell, an imitation of the Unix `sh'. His next project is to extend it to an imitation of the Korn shell.

There is a good chance that the csh from BSD will be declared free software by Berkeley, so we won't need to write that.


We hope to use the MACH message-passing kernel being developed at CMU. The current version of MACH is not free, and cannot be, because it contains a lot of AT&T Unix code. However, the MACH developers say that all this will be replaced with free code and that MACH will be free then.

The MACH people say that in a month or two certain new features (call-outs from the kernel to user code) should be ready that will enable us to start working on replacing some of these parts with new code.

If MACH does not become available, then we will probably develop the GNU kernel starting with either MIT's TRIX kernel or Berkeley's Sprite system. TRIX is a remote procedure call kernel which runs and supports basic Unix compatibility at about the level of version 7. So it needs a lot of additional features. Sprite is mostly at the architectural level of BSD Unix, but with a fancy distributed file system and process migration.

One thing we are considering is adapting the file system from Berkeley's Sprite kernel for use in MACH. This file system was designed from the beginning to work in a distributed manner. The file system is the largest part of MACH that needs replacement, now that the Berkeley TCP/IP code, also used in MACH, has been declared free.


The GNU source-level C debugger, GDB, is now being distributed along with Emacs version 18. The current release is version 2.6, which runs under BSD 4.2 and 4.3 on Vaxes, Suns, and some 32000 systems. It can also run stand-alone so we can use it to debug the kernel. An over-the-ethernet debugging mode may be added. Work is being done on debugging of multiple process parallel programs. GDB can also read COFF format executables, at least on Encore systems; but it seems to have trouble with COFF on actual system V.

In general, support for COFF isn't important for the GNU project, since we are going to use the BSD object file format in GNU.

C Compiler

The GNU C compiler GCC is now nearly reliable. It supports the May 1988 draft of ANSI C and produces considerably better code than commercial optimizing compilers we have compared it with. Enough internal documentation is included for people interested in retargeting the compiler to other CPUs to do so.

People are still reporting bugs, but they also say they think there are fewer bugs than in commercial compilers. New test releases appear about once a month; these are announced on the info-gcc electronic mailing list. Send mail to mit-eddie!!info-gcc-request if you want to join this list.

A review comparing GCC with two commercial C compilers appeared in the March, 1988 issue of Unix Review magazine.

Several features have recently been added which allow GNU C to support many RISC chips. This was done on commission from the University of California, where the team designing the SPUR chip wanted a good compiler. The SPUR machine description is now in the distribution.

Since then, work has been done on porting to several other RISC chips. A port to the SPARC (Sun 4) is nearly completed. Work is also being done on a Gould machine (don't ask me which), the Motorola 88000 and perhaps others.

Several other ports of GNU C are done or are in progress:

Compiler-related programs

The following programs related or used with the compiler are also now in distribution:

Utility Programs

Machines and Systems

How To Get GNU Software

All the software and publications from the Free Software Foundation are distributed with permission to copy and redistribute. The easiest way to get a copy of GNU software is from someone else who has it. Just copy it from them.

If you have access to the Internet, you can get the latest software from the host `'. For more information, read the file `/u2/emacs/GETTING.GNU.SOFTWARE' on that host.

If you cannot get the software from a friend or over the net, or if you would feel more confident getting copies straight from us, or if you would like to contribute some funds to our efforts, the Free Software Foundation distributes tapes for a copying and distribution fee. See the order form on the inside back cover.

If you do not have net access, and your computers cannot use either of the two media we distribute on, you must get our software from third party groups--people and organizations that do not work with us, but have our software in other forms. For your convenience, other groups that are helping to spread GNU software are listed below. Please note that the Free Software Foundation is not affiliated with them in any way, and is not responsible for either the currency of their versions or the swiftness of their responses.

These Internet sites have some GNU programs available for anonymous FTP:,,,,,,
and (under `PD:<Unix.GNU>').

Those on the SPAN network can ask rdss::corbet.

Information on how to uucp some GNU programs is available via electronic mail from:

arnold@skeeve.UUCP, ihnp4!hutch!barber, hqda-ai!merlin,
mit-eddie!bloom-beacon!ht!spt!gz, or

Ohio State also uucps GNU programs. They post their instructions monthly to newsgroup comp.sources.d on USENET. Current details from Karl Kleinpaste or or ...!osu-cis!karl; or Bob Sutterfield (substitute bob for karl in the above addresses).

Information on obtaining floppy disks of GNU Emacs for the AT&T Unix PC (aka 3B1 or PC7300) is available via electronic mail from: brant@manta.uucp.

GNU Software Available Now

We now offer two Unix software source distribution tapes, plus VMS tapes of GNU Emacs and GNU C which include sources and VMS executables. The first Unix tape (sometimes called the "Emacs tape") contains GNU Emacs as well as various other well-tested programs that we consider reliable. The second ("Beta test" or "Compiler") tape contains the GNU C compiler and related utilities, and other new programs that are less thoroughly tested. See the order form for details about media, etc.

Contents of Emacs tape

Contents of Beta Test Tape

The programs on this tape are all recent releases and can be considered to be at various stages of user testing. As always, we solicit your comments and bug reports.

VMS tapes

We offer a VMS backup tape of the GNU Emacs editor, and a separate tape containing the beta-test GNU C compiler. The VMS compiler tape also contains Bison (needed to compile the compiler), Gas (needed to assemble the compiler's output) and some library and include files. Both VMS tapes include executables that you can bootstrap from.

Thank GNUs

Thanks to all those mentioned in GNU Flashes and the GNU Project Status Report.

Thanks to the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, and its head, Professor Dertouzos. The LCS has provided FSF with the loan of a Microvax for program development.

Thanks to the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory for invaluable assistance of many kinds.

Thanks to Dr. T. Smith, Matt Wette, and the CS Department at UCSB for giving GNU staffer Brian Fox resources and space, and special personal thanks from Brian to Matt Wette for invaluable aid and support.

Thanks to Sony Corp. and to Software Research Associates, Inc., both of Tokyo, for sending us Sony workstations. SRA has also given us a large cash donation and lent us a full-time staff programmer and tech writer.

Thanks to NeXT, Inc., for their cash donation.

Thanks to the Mach Project in the Department of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, for lending us a Sun 3/60 and 300 MB disk drive.

Thanks to Barry Kleinman of Index Technology for copying Sun cartridge tapes and to David Wurmfeld of Phoenix Technologies Ltd. for copying mag tapes.

Thanks to all those who have contributed ports and extensions, as well as those who have contributed other source code, documentation, and good bug reports.

Thanks to those who sent money and offered help. Thanks also to those who support us by ordering Emacs manuals and distribution tapes.

The creation of this bulletin is our way of thanking all who have expressed interest in what we are doing.

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